Immigration, Refugees, Border Wall and National Security are some of the most divisive issues on the front burner of the American Political landscape. This week the President is calling for even more changes in the U.S. Immigration policy relating to ‘Chain Migration’.
Here are the current talking points regarding those issues:
Whitehouse announcement: It’s Time To End Chain Migration
“In the last decade more than 70% of U.S. immigration was based entirely on family relations.”
“Most green cards in the United States are awarded based on an antiquated system of family ties, not skill or merit. This system of Chain Migration – whereby one immigrant can bring in their entire extended families, who can bring in their families and so on – de-skills the labor force, puts downward pressure on wages, and increases the deficit. Chain Migration also undermines national security, by failing to establish merit-based criteria for evaluating entrants into the United States – instead, familial relations are all that is required to obtain a green card and, in turn, become a voting U.S. Citizen within a short period of time, with access to Federal welfare and government benefits.”
2017 Chain Migration TV ad
I have spent the last decade as an friend, advocate and supporter of immigrants and refugees as a person, pastor and community activist, privately, publicly and professionally from the pulpit. My personal life and work life are evidence that I have meaningful skin in the game and that I am speaking from compassion, action and concern.
What concerns me so much at this time in the local and national debate, is the inability of people to articulate a position that doesn’t demand one to be polarized to the left or right of the issues. So many high profile people in religion, politics and the entertainment industry present the matters as if they speak for all or as if they are the defining authority on the issues. It has gotten to the place that people are even speaking for God himself and declaring who is a faithful practitioner of their faith based on these issues.
Before I say more, let me recount some of the reasons, I think I can be part of this conversation and debate with a measure of credibility.
-I have visited refugee camps and met with families that were separated.
-I have discussed chain migration with families in refugee camps, who were trying to decide on separating in hopes of chain migration possibilities.
-On Sunday, I talked on the phone with the family member of a recent Iraqi immigrant. He is a Doctor in Iraq seeking to come to the United States via chain migration.
-On Sunday I prayed with a mother who is returning to Iraq during Christmas to deal with family financial matters and seek to get her parents into the UN refugee program, because they were displaced due to losing their home to ISIS in Mosul, Iraq.
-On Sunday, after service, I talked to a young woman who is a child of a refugee, who is seeking eventually to be the first Karen doctor here in Spokane, when she finishes med school.
-I have personally hosted refugee families in my home when they have arrived to America.
-I was the Executive Director of our Refugee Post-Resettlement Center for a decade. I have personally witnessed almost every conceivable scenario regarding refugees and immigrants. Matters relating to: Housing, employment, education, medical, learning english, elderly matters, everything related to welfare and health insurance, mental health and related post traumatic experiences recovery, poverty, crime, incarceration, drug abuse, domestic violence, paternity issues, medical conditions, loss of culture challenges, discrimination and bigotry and more.
-Our church has hosted and supported three refugee churches in our building over the last decade.
-Our church has hosted three English learning classes in our church building this year and yearly host a learning language class for refugee kids who want to learn to read and write in their native language.
-Our church sent a family from our congregation to South Sudan, who were displaced to Uganda due to war. We support them financially and relationally in their current ministry and mission among the world’s largest refugee camp.
I list these examples, not to pat on my back, but to show, I care about these matters as a friend, pastor and activist.
The selective way advocates and opponents present half narratives that shy away from the actual realities of the whole Immigration/Refugee system picture is actually hurting the process and debate. Only telling part of the story that is good or highlighting the failures is a deceptive practice that undermines credibility of the debate.
I think I represent the average person who thinks there’s a mix of positives and negatives in the immigration system but it needs to be fixed. I don’t think that can adequately happen if leaders and organizations keep playing politics and demonizing anyone who disagrees with them. There are many people that just want to talk out the issues and try to gain greater understanding.
There is a whole industry built around Immigration and Refugee resettlement that often undermines the ability to have straight forward conversations about the complex matters at stake. We can’t see the whole issue from only one part of it. This isn’t just a compassion issue, economic or national security issue, it’s all of them. People of faith are called to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves, an idea that makes room for examining and acting on issues with a broad and well informed perspective. Don’t be duped by partisanship or emotional religious appeals alone, the issues are more nuanced than black and white.
If asking questions or having different opinions about policies translates into being an apostate, racist, hipply or redneck than who is going to engage, speak up or speak out? Real dialogue is squashed by the divisive rhetoric of idealists.
I hope that there can be platforms and voices of responsible and compassionate advocacy in this debate. Unfortunately it appears that most people that have a significant voice have moved into their ideological or theological bunkers and have resorted to just shooting at people outside their pillboxes.
See your Senator’s voting position: https://www.numbersusa.com/content/elections/senators-support-chain-amnesty.html
Some of my previous articles or new articles discussing our ongoing work that relate to these issues:
-Charisma Magazine article on our advocacy work with Refugees:
-Foreign refugees flood into Spokane with 3 months of U.S. aid
Karen refugees adapt to new culture, struggle to find jobs, learn English
-Dehumanizing the outsiders, elderly, disabled and poor